In the middle of the night, before Max's first day of kindergarten, I began to angst (oh, come on, OF COURSE I was still awake -- have you been following along at all? Do you really think I slept much at all that night?) about the fact that we had never really had the whole discussion with the kids about not going anywhere with strangers, should strangers approach and ask to go off places with them. We've never really had occasion to emphasize this point, because both kids have been with one or the other of us almost all of the time for pretty much their entire lives, and if they aren't then they are with their grandparents or other relatives, who if anything are even more alert to their well-being than we are. However, it occurred to me that just about anyone could stroll on into the kindergarten classroom and claim to be Max's friend and relation, and Max is so friendly and social ... and at this point in my musings, I jabbed Ian, who pretended to be peacefully sleeping although surely he is smart enough and has been married to me long enough to have anticipated a rough night.
Ian agreed that the subject of approaching strangers cautiously should be broached, although he disagreed that three in the morning was an appropriate time to go over our game plan for how best to broach it. Consequently, during the evening after the second day of kindergarten was over and done with, we attempted to explain to Max and Maggie why they should not feel free to wander away with anyone unless that person were well-known to them, or unless we were there with them, or both, and what to do if a stranger comes your way. It is a surprisingly difficult task -- trying to preach caution without freaking anyone out about people, most of whom are not creepy lurkers in bushes, but range from delightful to benign to annoying but not acutely sinister. My feeling is that we have mostly confused Max without actually imparting any useful information ("The mailman is a grown-up, and so he can't bring mail to me because I don't really know his name", he told me after a package was dropped off the other day), but we will keep chipping away at it, I suppose. By the time he has graduated and gone off to college, we will have this parenting thing down pat, by God.